Home > Dreams, Love, Parenting > A success of smiles

A success of smiles

“He’s talking!” I exclaimed when my oldest son, Li’l D, spoke his first word before returning to babbling for weeks.

“He’s walking!” I exclaimed when he took his first step unassisted, though he wouldn’t take another for many days.

I wrote these first dates in his baby book. I hawkishly watched baby sites to make sure he met every milestone on time. I wanted everything to line up just right for him to have a perfect life, as if his life at thirty would be dictated by his life at three months.

Somewhere between then and now, I talked myself down from those stressful heights. I remembered my truth that parenting success is revealed in a child’s acts of wisdom, humor and grace over the long run, not in any two-minute tantrum on the playground or milestone hit late.

So when Li’l D’s younger brother first said “mama,” I smiled and said, “I’ll write that as your first word after you’ve said it a few more times.”

I cheered when Littler J rolled over for the first time, but didn’t run for his baby book. Was it a fluke or the beginning of a new era? I wanted to make sure.

I wasn’t worried about the milestones written on someone else’s website, as long as Littler J seemed engaged and content.

Then eleven months came and went without him showing much interest in walking.

Uh-oh, a familiar but long forgotten angst whispered. Li’l D was already walking unassisted by now!

Hush, I whispered back, uneasily

A week or two passed. Littler J started taking a single step unassisted here and there, but usually preferred to topple face-first toward my outstretched arms. He’d laugh uproariously at the fall, and help unleash my own mirth in turn.

It’s OK, his laughter told me. I’m OK.

I let go my worry.

He’ll do it when his ready, I told myself, and believed it. Seeing him with his big brother, how could I not?


He started taking two or three steps at a time before toppling, but he didn’t seem interested in much more.

He’ll do it when he’s ready, I reminded myself.

I remembered thinking it was so important for me to do things fast and first when I was younger. Graduating high school at sixteen was better than graduating at eighteen! I was later forlorn when I realized my indecision choosing a major would tack an extra year onto my college studies. I fretted. If I wasn’t hitting my targets early, what good was I? How important was I?

It took me years to see that when I got there didn’t really matter as long as I got there in the end. Sometimes (heck, a lot of the time) getting there wasn’t really that important at all.

Then there’s now. Now I spend so much of my life running around–in body outside of work, and in my brain even when seated at my work desk–that I’m not keen for either of my sons to experience life as a race.

Slow down, why don’t you, I’ve thought as my boys master new skills. There’s plenty of good right here, right now, so don’t go rushing elsewhere too fast!

But they’re moving at their own pace, and that’s good … even when it feels too fast for me.

This morning, thirteen-month-old Littler J took several steps solo. He lost his balance, righted himself, and kept walking.

I clapped for him, but I was a little sad, too. This is the beginning of many steps he’ll take away from me. It’s good and right for him to take those steps. As I once wrote about his brother, I understand he’s not walking away from me but toward who he is meant to be.

I’m excited to see where his steps take him. I have many years left before those topsy-turvy toddler steps turn into the long strides of a high school freshman, or a new college graduate should he choose that path.

Right now, today, his steps are tiny. His first ones came later than some kids’, but at just the right time for him.

I see them and think of a book I bought a few weeks ago. Called I Wish You More, it expresses the kinds of wishes I have for my sons and all the children I know.

But there’s one page in particular that chokes me up, especially when my Li’l D reads it.

(Didn’t I just bring him home from the hospital? How could he possibly be reading?)

I wish you more pause than fast-forward.

Oh, Li’l D, Littler J, please know how deeply I wish this for you!

My sweet boys, success isn’t in how quickly you get there.

It’s in how much you smile along the way.


  1. May 2, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    You know … I don’t like to post gushy comments. If I can’t add to the discussion, I’d rather smile, maybe hit like, and pass on. But I just have to tell you how much I LOVE these glimpses you give of your life as seen through your eyes. They lift my heart, truly they do! Thank you… 🙂

  2. May 2, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Both my kids did not walk until exactly 13 months. I have a feeling my kids are never going to want to leave home. We actually were relieved when they started walking because we were tired of carrying them. (Shoot, they were heavy!) They like being around us. (and driving us crazy) Your boy has a cute, cute smile! His beautiful curls makes it look like you have a little goatee. thehehee 🙂

    I remember being so PROUD when my boy started reading.

    • May 2, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      🙂 The reading thing is still so unreal to me. I look at D as he’s sounding out words and flash back to holding him in the tiny rainbow quilt he wore leaving the hospital. How can kids seem so small and enormous all at once? I love it. So much.

  3. May 2, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Gosh. Your posts are so beautiful and somehow feel nostalgic to me. At the risk of sounding redundant, I must tell you this is just so beautiful. Beautiful littles and beautiful you.

    • May 3, 2015 at 8:22 am

      Thank you. ♡ “Nostalgic” is the word I feel best describes me. I tried explaining this to D once. “Some people think it just means sad. But actually it means hints of wistfulness for things that aren’t around anymore mixed up with a heck of a lot of gladness that they ever were.” This morning I’m feeling it even more prominently than usual. I have the sneaking suspicion another blog is going to write itself, tho’ I am trying to leave breathing room between posts!

    • May 3, 2015 at 8:23 am

      Also, it doesn’t sound redundant to me. Each such word is new and a chance to feel my thanks!

  4. Anxious Mom
    May 2, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Love this ❤️

  5. May 3, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Woo, go little one! And I’m impressed you wrote everything in a baby book. Just last night I was wracking my brain trying to remember when Peeper said her first word (“dog”). I have no idea when it was! oops.

  6. May 3, 2015 at 7:10 am

    This post really made me smile. Although as the youngest of five, I can’t tell you how annoyed I was as a kid that my mom knew exactly when my eldest sister and brother had their firsts — but couldn’t remember a thing for the bottom three!

    My son Jacob was a late-ish walker. We had wood floors and he loved the sound of his hands slap, slap, slapping on the wood. We were pretty sure he’d never walk because he had too much fun crawling. Then, we got a puppy who chewed on Jacob’s head. That got Jacob onto his feet (in self defense) and there has been no turning back.

    Next Saturday, Jacob will “walk” in another way — up to the stage at his university to accept his college diploma. He will do that a little bit late, too. But he did it!

  7. May 3, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    I wish them more, in just the right time for them. I wish you the same. I love the glance into your life, it anchors me to the real world of normal. Thank you.

  8. May 4, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Love it! I look at my son and wish him more, too. And there are times when I have to remind him, yes, you are spreading your wings and finding your independence and it fills me with joy; however, you aren’t quite there yet, slow down son, there is still time 🙂

  9. May 9, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Aww feel connected …as I’m am currently right here as a new mom…I frequently ask myself am I doing the right thing…he loves to hold onto things and be about his day…or even climb the steps…he often practices letting go and gaining his balance and clapping but no steps yet…this assured me he will walk with time

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